The bonds and memories created on camping trips last a lifetime! For many people camping brings back a sense of nostalgia, reminiscing about past adventures, and looking forward to new ones to come. Part of that is anticipating the experience of cooking and enjoying yummy camping food like smokies and smores cooked over an open fire! This blog includes all you need to know when preparing and packing food that your whole family will enjoy on your camping trip (from a dietitian mom!).
Map out your meals
One of my biggest tips when preparing and packing food, is to involve your kiddos in the process! Kids crave more autonomy as they grow, so getting them involved in the meal planning process is a huge win on the cultivating independence front! This also helps to add to their excitement about the camping trip and raises the likelihood that they will eat the foods they helped pack (another win!)
Think about how many days you are camping for, and how many meals and snacks per day you will need food to fuel the whole family. This will help you map out the volume of each food item and meal servings you will need to bring. You will need to make a list of cooking essentials to bring for your meals when you are out there such as foil trays for cooking veggies or meat, a camping stove (if applicable), hot dog sticks, campfire safe pot/pan, cutting board, utensils (forks, knives, tongs, spatula, spoons etc.).
It’s always less cumbersome to opt for low-maintenance meals that don’t require too much cooking, utensils and dishes. You can even make certain portions of meals ahead of time to streamline the prep process when you’re out camping. For example, batch cooking starches ahead of time such as pasta, rice, quinoa and boiled potatoes will help reduce prep time and dishes used when you’re out in the bush! Another idea is to cut up fresh veggies ahead of time (or buy veggies you don’t need to cut like snap peas, mini tomatoes/cucumbers and baby carrots etc.) and pack them into containers so they are easily added to meals and snacks.
Dried and shelf-stable foods are always a must when camping! These foods are great snack options for bringing in back packs when on hikes or doing activities away from the campground. Here are some on-the-go options that kids will love:
- Granola/granola bars,
- fruit bars and dried fruit,
- trail mix with nuts, dried fruit and chocolate chips
- Beef jerky,
- roasted chickpeas/edamame beans,
- crackers, goldfish, etc.
- Fruit sauce pouches
- Peanut butter and jam sandwiches
- Fruit that is easy to pack: banana, apples, oranges etc.
Food safety when camping
Try your best to keep your hands clean when preparing and serving food to others. Bring biodegradable camping soap and sanitizing wipes to help keep things clean and prevent food contamination.
A well-insulated cooler is your best friend for camping trips! Add plenty of ice packs and store it in a shaded area to help prevent the ice packs from melting prematurely. Store beverages and food in separate coolers to avoid opening the coolers unnecessarily. If you bring raw meat, make sure to store in a leakproof container and always use separate utensils for handling to avoid cross-contamination to other foods. Make sure to store leftovers promptly in the cooler, as bacteria overgrowth can happen just after a couple of hours if unrefrigerated.
Always be sure to properly dispose of leftover food, food wrappers and garbage. It’s best to avoid hungry wild animals sniffing through your garbage and rummaging around your tent in the middle of the night!
Favourite make-ahead snack recipes kids will love
- Non-bake coconut almond energy balls
- Chocolate zucchini blender muffins
- Sweet and salty lentil granola bars
- Homemade peanut butter granola
- Chocolate whole grain snack bars (no bake)
Easy, satisfying camping meal ideas
When camping, try your best to stick to a regular routine of meals and snacks every 2-3 h. This will help to fuel your kids so they have all the energy they need to enjoy nature and camping activities!
- Make sure your meals have these components:
- Protein food: salmon/ tuna salad, hotdogs/smokies, burgers, rotisserie chicken, eggs, yogurt, cheese, hummus, canned beans, canned chilli (or homemade ahead of time), and dehydrated camping meals are also an option!
- Grain/Starch food: Precooked pasta, rice, quinoa, buns, bread, instant oatmeal packets, crackers, tortillas, cereal
- Veggies and/or fruits: cucumber, carrots, bell peppers, baby tomatoes, lettuce, corn, apples, bananas, oranges etc.
- Condiments: salt, pepper, mustard, relish, ketchup, mayonnaise, hot sauce etc.
- Be sure to pack some “just because” food options to add to meals: cookies, one-bite brownies, chips, popcorn, chocolate bars, marshmallows, graham crackers, gummies, etc.
Here are some easy, delicious and satisfying camping meal ideas to add to your list:
- Peanut butter banana sandwich or wrap
- Instant oatmeal, mix in peanut butter, cinnamon and dried fruit, apple or apple sauce
- Make ahead chia pudding with fruit or yogurt parfaits in individual containers
- Eggs cooked over the campfire, with toast and fruit
- Muffins with hard-boiled egg and fruit
- Sandwiches: bring your favourite bread/wraps, and sandwich fillings like roast beef, turkey deli meat, ham, slices of cheese, pickles, sliced veggies, hummus, and other condiments
- Pasta salad: make short-cut pasta ahead of time at home. Mix together with chopped cucumber, tomatoes, bell pepper, olives, and feta cheese, and mix with a pesto or vinaigrette dressing.
- Reheated campfire chilli/stew: Make ahead your favourite chilli or stew with meat, beans, potatoes, and veggies. Reheat over the campfire and serve with buns or bread.
- Tuna/ salmon or chicken salad: You can make this ahead at home. Enjoy on bread, in wraps, or on top of crackers. Also works as a dip for veggies!
- Hot dogs or smokies: The classic campfire meal! Roast hot dogs or smokies over the fire. Serve in a bun with your desired condiments. Enjoy with fruit or prechopped veggies on the side!
- Canned chilli and instant rice: This simple and filling meal option requires no make-ahead ingredients. Serve with veggies or fruit on the side.